Taix and the City

So you may remember my “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Taix* (*But Were Afraid to Ask)” post from September.

Of course, since you read this blog, you’ve probably already seen the recently-released renderings of Taix’s forthcoming replacement, but I would be remiss in my duties were I not to make mention of them here.

So. Remember what I said in September’s post about how you’d have to have a dead soul to not be charmed by Taix’s faux-French village vernacular? Well, you’d have to be born with no soul to love this:

A magical pairing of dirty stucco and mustard-beige

Missed Taix? It’s over there:

No no, down there, next to my favorite shop, Retail

Now I’m not implying that the good people at Togawa-Smith-Martin have no souls. I’m sure they cast reflections in mirrors and everything. It’s just that those people who get hot for their “brown stack o’ boxes with metal parts and some balconies” style, those people I worry about.

But such people don’t exist, I hear you say, and you are correct. Even the Curbed commenters, wetting themselves with glee over the destruction of Taix, admit that this blah-dern blandmark embarrasses the lot of us. They also admit that the new Taix will not succeed; without the charm of its architecture, and the ambience of its interior, it will fail worse than the French agricultural harvest of 1788. And we all know how that turned out.

Dear Lord I fell asleep just posting a picture of it. It’s like the Colin Robinson of architecture.

What, then? Are we resigned to her destruction? Perhaps not. There is, after all, Les Amis de Taix, dedicated to her retention and preservation (their petition is here). Esotouric has a fascinating theory that Holland Group purposely turned the destruction and resurrection of Taix into a trainwreck just to sink the project, a big fat write-off as we head into an economic slowdown being, you know, better than nothing.

But, I hear you say, you can’t possibly want to stop a project like this, because housing!  Oh you and your bizarre strange-bedfellow propaganda from Billionaire Fatcat Developers and best pals Big Government Leftist Ideologues.  Who tell us how we’re to live, when they don’t even live here—Clyde Holland lives in Vancouver and Scott Wiener lives in San Francisco (ok, maybe not such strange bedfellows).  

Besides, Holland Residential is famous for illegally Airbnb’ing its units. True, this they have denied and responded by saying “well, our units are rented by corporate clients and THEY Airbnb them, not us!”  Yes, well, either way, I’m sure we have therewith ended the housing crisis, and good for all of us.

Ultimately, Taix must be destroyed because its architecture connotes “little European village.”  It positively reeks of the wholesome and virtuous.  It’s not popular to make value judgments extolling the positive aspects of European culture these days:  it’s hip as hell to hate on Europe as hard as you possibly can—well, old Europe anyway.  God forbid something as simple as some half-timbering might make you meditate on truth, beauty, devotion, tradition; all anathema to the modern world.  I’m surprised people aren’t protesting it.

And Taix has whimsy. Gads, people today sure hate whimsy. (I mean I know millennials are supposed to be a joyless bunch but enough already. Embrace whimsy, ya knuckleheads!)

Whither Taix? It’s going to be a strange and fascinating ride…as is everything in this deeply polluted world. For which I have nothing but hope. Stay tuned.

3525 South Bronson Ave.

Greetings all! Marsak here. Remember when I used to look at demo permits and blog about the structures? Good times. I’ll get back to it, I swear. I’ve been completely consumed with this book project the last few months. Big thank-you to Kim who’s been keeping the flame alive here at RIP!

But I saw this today and just had to toss it out there. There’s an Instagram page called southlabuildings, which I love, because I love South Los Angeles so damn much.

Go add them on your IG

And I love this house to an absurd degree. It was listed for sale recently. The listing read in part:

Which reads “tear this down and build a giant-ass box you crazy bastards!”

The house was listed, relisted and delisted, so who knows what’s going on with it. There is/was apparently a demo permit issued, as evidenced by this photo, though there’s nothing about the issuance of a demolition permit proper at City Planning or on ZIMAS—

Although at DBS we do have confirmation that they’ve gone through and have had their Plan Check approved, which does not bode well—

So let’s talk a bit about this house. Of course every developer from God-knows-where wants to tear it down—to build a superdense coronavirus hotbox that looks like some preteen’s Jenga tower—and, I might add, without a thought of moving it. Moving it, you say? Who does that? Well you know, it was moved here after all.

That’s right, it came from somewhere else. Figueroa south of downtown used to be full of grand homes, once upon a time (like, say, this one). And Martin Bekins’s house at 1341 South Figueroa St., built in the spring/summer of 1907, was one of them. Martin Bekins is yes, THAT Bekins. Read more about him here and here. Bekins & family stayed in the house until downtown grew up around them and in the early-mid 1920s built something larger and with more property out in Eagle Rock.

When you live in a big house on Figueroa, muckety-mucks come speak in your living room, and then you make them governor

The architect of 1341 South Figueroa was John A. Mathis. Mathis came to Los Angeles in 1885 and established the Mathis Construction Company. He built all over the southland. Below is another Mathis house; from what I can tell, it and Bronson are the sole remaining two.

2225 West Twentieth St., J. A. Mathis, 1905. This house just underwent renovation and restoration. Why can’t our friend on Bronson? C’mon Jefferson Park! Don’t let West Adams make a fool of ya!

Anyway, after Bekins moved to Eagle Rock in the mid-1920s, the spot at 1341 was needed for something else (Bekins Co. built a commercial structure on the site, which disappeared in the early 1970s, and it’s all Convention Center down there now), so the house was picked up and moved by Welte House Moving Co. in the spring of 1929, where she’s been ever since.

And there‘s a wishing well! Let’s all go toss in some coins and envision her restoration

I mean look at the old girl. Not stucco’d, the chimneys are there, all original windows, the porches haven’t been enclosed…incredible. Large corner lot. If ever a home could come back, and be a showplace and a feather in the cap of Los Angeles, it is this one.

So what say ye, Los Angeles?

The Cranky Preservationist in Reports of the Death of The White Log Coffee Shop Have Been Exaggerated (episode 26)


Architectural historian Nathan Marsak loves Los Angeles, and hates to see important buildings neglected and abused, whether by slumlord owners or the savage public. Follow him on his urban adventures as he sees something that looks like crap, opens his yap and spontaneously lets you know exactly why this place matters.

Episode 26 finds Nathan and his wee pal The Los Angeles Preservation Imp at 11th & Hill, kitty corner from the Herald Examiner, at the scene of a recent fire that’s had fans of the faux log cabin diner that’s occupied the corner since 1933 worried sick.

But the diner’s designer Ken Bemis was a super genius, praised in Fortune Magazine for his “cat-like brain, which, dropped from anywhere, always lands on its feet.” The building might look like an old New England log cabin, but was in fact a patented ultra-modern fire-proof marvel, its concrete “logs” poured into versatile wall and window molds that could be reconfigured to taste, or packed up to move to a new site with ease. The fire had scarcely scorched the place.

While skipping happily around the undamaged log cabin, and letting the imp root around in the burned fixtures tossed around back, Nathan encounters a couple of interested parties, and lets loose with a little improvisational preservation advocacy.

We know it’s strange to see people walking around, coming up to talk to each other, touching their faces and so forth, yet this was our beloved Los Angeles just a month ago. And while we shelter in place and do our best to look out for one another and our beloved local landmarks from afar, there is just one ray of sunshine we can’t help but bask in: the perceived wisdom that every small, cool, historic building like the White Log Coffee Shop that sits on valuable Downtown L.A. real estate is doomed is over now. There are hard times ahead for Los Angeles, that’s certain, but we might just get to hang on to more of our landmarks. And what are we without them? Cranky, that’s what!

Where will the Cranky Preservationist turn up next? Stay tuned!

The Cranky Preservationist in Don’t F— With My Bunker Hill Retaining Wall (episode 25)


Architectural historian Nathan Marsak loves Los Angeles, and hates to see important buildings neglected and abused, whether by slumlord owners or the savage public. Follow him on his urban adventures as he sees something that looks like crap, opens his yap and spontaneously lets you know exactly why this place matters.

Episode 25 finds Nathan on old Bunker Hill, a once charming neighborhood of Victorian mansions turned rooming houses, wrecked in a moronic mid-century redevelopment scheme. But the development agency missed a spot, and failed to demolish the fine limestone ashlar retaining wall that was built to support John C. Austin’s Fremont Hotel (1902-1954).

And that well-built wall did what well-built walls do for 118 years, at least until some jackass spray-painted it black a few weeks back. The Cranky Preservationist public policy crew reached out to AT&T (the owner of the parking lots separated by the wall), to the graffiti abatement company under contract to the city, and to the famously recalcitrant office of Councilman Jose Huizar. Nobody cared, or expressed any interest in bringing in a skilled stone cleaning crew to strip the paint and restore the wall.

So imagine Nathan’s burning rage when he returned to at the southwest corner of Fourth and Olive Streets and discovered some well-meaning nincompoop had “cleaned up” the offending black spray paint by coating the historic stones with an additional layer of WHITE paint. You don’t have to imagine it, because Nathan’s entire temper tantrum, including calls for human rights violations and a gratuitous shout out to Teddy Roosevelt, was caught on tape. Tune in for a glimpse of a Cranky Preservationist’s dark side, and a desperate plea that the last bit of old Bunker Hill infrastructure is properly restored—before it’s too late!

For everything you ever wanted to know about lost Bunker Hill, but were afraid to ask, visit our original time travel blog and stay tuned for Nathan’s upcoming book.

If you like these Cranky Preservationist videos, you’ll probably like Nathan’s R.I.P. Los Angeles blog, too, so check it out!

Where will the Cranky Preservationist turn up next? Stay tuned!

The Cranky Preservationist and the Mystery of the Shrinking HPOZ at 1330 W. Pico (aka “The Albany”) (episode 24)


Architectural historian Nathan Marsak loves Los Angeles, and hates to see important buildings neglected and abused, whether by slumlord owners or the savage public. Follow him on his urban adventures as he sees something that looks like crap, opens his yap and spontaneously lets you know exactly why this place matters.

Episode 24 finds Nathan on the eastern edge of the Pico-Union Historic Preservation Overlay Zone (HPOZ), a charming, low-slung early 20th century neighborhood of craftsman bungalows, apartment houses, churches and mortuaries that feels a world away from the Convention Center on the other side of the 110 Freeway.

But there’s big trouble brewing on this little block, all wrapped up in a land use mystery that’s had L.A.‘s preservation community scratching its collective head.

HPOZs are supposed to be protected, with historic buildings preserved and the rare new construction respecting what’s already there. So why did Gil Cedillo, the councilman who represents this impoverished district, file a motion carving a warehouse out of the HPOZ, upzoning it for high-rise hotel use? And how did zillionaire developer Eri Kroh of Sandstone Properties anticipate that the zoning would change when he spent $42 Million to aquire the property?

It just didn’t make sense.

But that was before public records activist Adrian Riskin of the Michael Kohlhaas blog“ got interested. He recently obtained emails from Gil Cedillo’s office that reveal exactly how Sandstone hit the real estate jackpot.

https://michaelkohlhaas.org/wp/2020/03/07/ever-wonder-how-one-of-these-super-sized-construction-projects-downtown-gets-built-here-is-an-unprecedented-look-into-how-city-councilmembers-and-developers-work-as-partners-to-subvert-and/

The infuriating answer is that Gil Cedillo’s staff worked overtime to look after the developer, even when it meant telling the Mayor’s office to back off on discussions about turning the warehouse into much-needed homeless housing. The talking points that planning director Gerald Gubatan used when encouraging “the zealot” Ken Bernstein at City Planning to break up the HPOZ were written by Sandstone’s lobbyists. So were the City Council motions submitted by Gil Cedillo. All Cedillo had to do was whip out a pen and sign his name, and a neighborhood’s doom was sealed.

Anyone who cares about the wretched state of our beloved Los Angeles, the demolitions and tent encampments, the illegal Airbnb listings and unaffordable rents, the squandered Measure HHH housing funds, the filth and the cruelty, should read the blog post describing these emails, and possibly the emails as well.

To get a taste of how special this block is, and why it’s entirely unsuitable for the enormous tower and sign district requested by Sandstone’s lobbyists and provided by their friendly councilman, let the Cranky Preservationist take you on a tour. You’ll see beauty, surprises, sorrow and a very special slice of sidewalk along the way.

Open your eyes, friends! Terrible people are bleeding Los Angeles dry with their Sacramento-style policy savvy and lack of compassion, and some of them will retire with government pensions. They’re destroying our neighborhoods and shortening our neighbors’ lives.

But we don’t have to settle for this twisted lack of representation. The only question is how much longer will YOU stand for it?

If you like these Cranky Preservationist videos, you’ll probably like Nathan’s R.I.P. Los Angeles blog, too, so check it out!

Where will the Cranky Preservationist turn up next? Stay tuned!

The Cranky Preservationist and Friends in Save 700 Normandie Avenue, Koreatown’s Little New York Street (episode 23)

Architectural historian Nathan Marsak loves Los Angeles, and hates to see important buildings neglected and abused, whether by slumlord owners or the savage public. Follow him on his urban adventures as he sees something that looks like crap, opens his yap and spontaneously lets you know exactly why this place matters.

Episode 23 finds Nathan on the 700 block of South Normandie, where his wee L.A. Preservation Imp has lured him to see the greatest interbellum street in all of Los Angeles. Unfortunately, this gorgeous landscape of elegant apartment houses, one of the most popular filming locations in town, is currently threatened by an enormous modern tower by Koreeatown mega-developers Jamison Properties. Only landlords, and none of the thousands of people who rent in the neighborhood, were notified of Jamison’s plans.

Discovering the fast-tracked project when it was nearly a done deal, longtime residents Carolyn Zanelli‎ and Spencer Jones filed a CEQA challenge. When their councilman, Herb Wesson, refused to meet, neighbors picketed his office and got on the evening news. Carolyn and Spencer have a lot to say about their special Little New York Street, and they want you to fall in love with it, too.

So take a time travel trip to a place that is teetering between the twin poles of its current timeless perfection and the arrogance of checked out politicians and their rapacious developer-donor pals. Can Angelenos fight back and Save Normandie together? With the Cranky Preservationist, his imp, Carolyn and Spencer, and YOU on the case, it’s very possible!

If you like these Cranky Preservationist videos, you’ll probably like Nathan’s R.I.P. Los Angeles blog, too, so check it out!

Where will the Cranky Preservationist turn up next? Stay tuned!

The Cranky Preservationist in… What the Hell Happened to the Pantages Neon? (episode 22)

Architectural historian Nathan Marsak loves Los Angeles, and hates to see important buildings neglected and abused, whether by slumlord owners or the savage public. Follow him on his urban adventures as he sees something that looks like crap, opens his yap and spontaneously lets you know exactly why this place matters.

Episode 22 finds Nathan in front of the Pantages Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard, to confirm the terrible rumors that have been circulating on social media since Saturday, 2/29/2020.

It’s true! The magnificent neon blade sign, an integral part of the landmark and a streetscape beacon for nearly a century, is really gone. Since the first photo of the sad letters PANT being lowered to the sidewalk began circulating online, L.A. preservationists have desperately sought reliable information, while going through the classic first four stages of grief.

  • Stage 1: Denial. (This can’t be happening! Maybe it’s Photoshopped?)
  • Stage 2: Anger. (What idiot is responsible for this outrage? GR$#!@%)
  • Stage 3: Bargaining. (Bummer. Can our neon sign museum have the old sign?)
  • Stage 4: Depression. (I heard from a kid who talked to a guy on the crane that it’s going to be LED. I want to put my head in the oven.)

The last stage of grief is Acceptance, and Cranky Preservationists will NEVER accept the loss of a landmark as inevitable, or not worth yowling about. As with Felix the Cat, another beloved historic neon sign that was sneakily removed only to be replaced with a hideous LED copycat, what’s happened to the Pantages is an important cautionary tale.

Felix wasn’t a protected monument, because Antonio Villaraigosa kept that from happening as a favor to the politically connected property owner, Shammas Group. (Learn more about that at Save The Felix Neon SIgn Blog) But the Pantages Theatre is Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument #193, and its character-defining features are protected under the law. The historic sign should never have been removed on a Saturday afternoon, leaving citizens scrambling to figure out why.

When Nederlander, the owner of the Pantages, sought a permit to work on its sign in 2018, that permit request should have triggered an agenda item at the Cultural Heritage Commission, giving the Commissioners and community a chance to hear what Nederlander proposed, give feedback, raise concerns and decide on appropriate next steps. With a back office approval and no public notice, we’re left with nothing but rumors, and an ugly black splotch where a great sign lit the Hollywood night from Garbo’s time until Leap Day, 2020.

And that’s enough to make any preservationist cranky.

If you like these Cranky Preservationist videos, you’ll probably like Nathan’s R.I.P. Los Angeles blog, too, so check it out!

Where will the Cranky Preservationist turn up next? Stay tuned!

The Cranky Preservationist meets The L.A. Preservation Imp (episode 21)

Architectural historian Nathan Marsak loves Los Angeles, and hates to see important buildings neglected and abused, whether by slumlord owners or the savage public. Follow him on his urban adventures as he sees something that looks like crap, opens his yap and spontaneously lets you know exactly why this place matters.

Episode 21 finds Nathan in an obscure corner of Ernest Batchelder’s 1914 Dutch Chocolate Shop in Downtown Los Angeles, researching the stylistic differences between the tile master’s catalog output, and the cute doggies that appear in the landmark’s custom murals.

But wait! What is this mysterious casket wedged between the wall and the south mural? And what strange creature pops out to make its strong feelings about historic preservation in Los Angeles known?! It is a pal, sidekick and uncanny foil for the Cranky Preservationist, and we think you’ll be seeing quite a bit more of the L.A. Preservation Imp. So tune in and say hi… if you dare!

If you like these Cranky Preservationist videos, you’ll probably like Nathan’s R.I.P. Los Angeles blog, too, so check it out!

Where will the Cranky Preservationist turn up next? Stay tuned!

The Cranky Preservationist: 3 Beauties Bite the Dust (episode 20)

Architectural historian Nathan Marsak loves Los Angeles, and hates to see important buildings neglected and abused, whether by slumlord owners or the savage public. Follow him on his urban adventures as he sees something that looks like crap, opens his yap and spontaneously lets you know exactly why this place matters.

Episode Twenty finds Nathan back in Pico-Union, a disenfranchised community of immigrants and renters that is experiencing unprecedented development-fueled displacement and demolition. On the 2700 block of West Francis Avenue, three beguiling early 20th century homes converted to multi-family housing stand boarded up and derelict, waiting for the pneumatic claw to rip them to shreds.

Your tax money in the form of HHH funds will be used to build something quick and cheap, but very profitable for the consultants, developer and politicians attached to the project.

And yeah, presumably some poor elderly people will get the chance to live in that quick, cheap structure. But West Francis Avenue and Los Angeles will be forever diminished by the loss of these beautiful homes that have grown up with the city. In a city blighted with tens of thousands of vacant lots, strip malls and oil change pits, it is a crime to turn landmarks into landfill, and once beautiful blocks into eyesores. If you’re cranky, too, let’s demand better from City Hall and the County Supervisors.

If you like these Cranky Preservationist videos, you’ll probably like Nathan’s R.I.P. Los Angeles blog, too, so check it out!

Where will the Cranky Preservationist turn up next? Stay tuned!

Cranky about Facebook? This video is also on YouTube

Catch all the rants on Facebook

The Cranky Preservationist: Won’t Anyone Think of the Squirrels? (episode 19)

Architectural historian Nathan Marsak loves Los Angeles, and hates to see important buildings neglected and abused, whether by slumlord owners or the savage public. Follow him on his urban adventures as he sees something that looks like crap, opens his yap and spontaneously lets you know exactly why this place matters.

Episode Nineteen finds Nathan in Pico-Union, on the 1100 block of South Westmoreland, where a pair of elegant 1930s apartments stand empty save some abandoned toys on the stoop. Here, 16 households were cast out into the cold by the landlord’s invocation of the Ellis Act, and demolition is nigh. The planned mega-project has fewer low income units than the existing structures, but makes up for that by also eliminating green space, and dooming the local squirrels to homelessness–or worse!

For this is how Los Angeles grows, when developers play the system to pencil out vast profit and City Hall happily rubber stamps every permit, blind to good planning, overstressed infrastructure, visual pollution or the suffering of constituents. Yet just down the block, a brand new building earns Nathan’s grudging respect, because it actually serves a purpose. Sometimes even a Cranky Preservationist can justify sacrificing a good, old building if its replacement truly serves a local need.

If you like these Cranky Preservationist videos, you’ll probably like Nathan’s R.I.P. Los Angeles blog.

Where will the Cranky Preservationist turn up next? Stay tuned!

This video is also on Facebook!